Peter AppletonArtist, Lecturer / academic
Peter Appleton b.1955 Liverpool
Appleton’s work over the last 35 years has creatively exploited new and emerging technologies in the production of publically situated interactive artworks and music both nationally and internationally.
The following projects and series illustrate and give examples of Appleton’s publicly situated work. The first two projects are examples of collaborations and the others connects with a substantial period of research, begun in the early 1980’s, into electro-acoustics, interactive systems and renewable energy.
“The creation of virtual worlds, meeting places exploring and re-imagining places at a series of events in parks and public spaces in Liverpool and Shanghai between 2010 and 2011.”
This project was divided into three sub-headings: Picnic in Arcadia, Voyages in Arcadia and Gazing in to Arcadia - drew on the traditions and perceptions of nature and its relationship to the city in both Chinese and British cultures. It explored the notion of the idyll and nature as a place of recreation, contemplation, nourishment and of meeting. The first Shang-pool Arcadia was a research project in collaboration with the University of Shanghai. This phase was initiated on visits to Shanghai between 2009 and 2010.
The technical research centered on the convergence of virtual, augmented, interactive, telematic and telepresence technologies in the creation of mixed reality experiences. These virtual worlds become places of meeting, exploration and imagining, but uniquely, they were also projected within real places at a series of events in parks and public spaces in Liverpool and Shanghai between 2010 and 2011, blurring the boundaries between real and virtual experience. This project entailed the development of novel forms of interaction with these virtual worlds. A virtual park was built in Second Life, modelled on Stanley Park in Liverpool, which formed the starting point for the creation of a hybrid Anglo-Sino Arcadia. The project was supported by the Liverpool Biennial being closely linked to the Biennial’s ongoing focus on urban regeneration. At the first Shang-pool Arcadia event, Picnic in Arcadia, public audiences within the Bluecoat in Liverpool and researchers at the University of Shanghai simultaneously met in a virtual picnic space created using green screen background extraction systems and tele-conferencing video links between the two spaces. At the second event audiences navigated the waterways of this virtual world seated in a Canadian canoe using Wi like paddles whilst sharing a collective viewpoint of the virtual park projected on to a screen in front of them.
Shang-pool Arcadia built upon previous collaborative research undertaken with colleague Professor Paul Sermon at the University of Salford investigating presence and mixed realities. Urban Intersections showcased at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts 09 in Dublin formed a prelude to Picnic In Arcadia. This project explored a number novel of interfaces linking Second Life scenarios with actions and activities in the real world. The first of the two phases Picnic and Voyages in Arcadia were featured as part of the Liverpool Biennial international festival in 2010.
Hope Street Project
“Voices travel as light down Hope Street. Interactive sound and light installation situated in and between Liverpool’s two cathedrals specially commissioned and funded by Arts Council England for Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008.”
Lasers have been frequently used within art installations, but since 1990 Appleton has uniquely used lasers to carry signals as voices and images connecting spaces and people. The Hope Street project linked the towers of Liverpool’s two cathedrals with visible and invisible lasers carrying voices between the acoustic spaces of these iconic buildings during Liverpool 08 Capital of Culture. Verbal phrases of aspiration were collected from various groups and individuals in Liverpool and could be added live within the cathedrals at particular times. The custom software specially developed for the project stored the voices as audio samples which were randomly recalled and played back into the spaces of each cathedral, traveling as light along Hope Street linking the acoustic spaces both poetically and actually. Music and sound formed a significant part of the Hope Street project. The audio was developed in collaboration with composer and Simon Thorne whose piece for two choirs situated in each of the cathedrals formed the closing concert with their voices simultaneously linked by the beam of light. Appleton’s voice strings where used to electromagnetically modulate the voices, creating harmonics, which were tuned to the reverberant spaces of the buildings.
The Hope Street Project was a significant development of his long-term investigations into signal carrying lasers to carry sound and images. The State of Sea (1994) commissioned by, and installed at, Tate St Ives sent a live video image of the sea carried on a modulated laser via mirrors into the sunken courtyard in the centre of the Gallery. Songlines, (1990) a commissioned piece for a leading Australian university, the Philip Institute Melbourne, preceded this and explored Aboriginal notions of songlines. The first Voice String Instrument was developed during my residency at the Philip Institute and converted voice into the vibration of a monochord, and then an audio-modulated laser carried this harmonically rich sound across the campus of the University situated at Bundorra an ancient Aboriginal site. The laser signal was then demodulated and passed along an underground cavity before emerging from an exponential horn. These changing energy states alluded to the singular meaning but changing nature of
Aboriginal Songlines. The Voice String Instrument and subsequent manifestations are the result of my long-term research into electro-acoustics begun in the early 1980s, which has resulted in the development of many permanent sound sculptures, invented Instruments, music and performances.
The Hope Street Project led to his recent commission from Tate and FACT to produce a further version of the piece creating a laser link between Liverpool Tate and FACT. This project forms a visible landmark between these two local/international institutions sharing the current Nam June Paik retrospective exhibitions. Furthermore, The Hope Street Project was one of only three major projects funded by the Arts Council England within Liverpool’s 08 Capital of Culture and featured within the official 2008 programme of the Liverpool Biennial. As an internationally significant piece of research, the project also had impact locally and regionally. It was christened ‘Gods Washing Line’ by local people, as featured extensively in the local press, radio and television, and became a nocturnal landmark within its period of operation. Significant outreach took place as part of the project with local community groups and schools collecting phrases of aspiration.
Appleton’s Gu Zen Water Piano (2010) is an interactive instrument developed in the context of over thirty years of my work as a sound sculptor and instrument inventor. The Gu Zen Water Piano is permanently cited in Shanghai Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition. This Water Piano explores the tuning and origins of the GuZin one of the earliest Chinese instruments. Much of the early music written for the instrument was associated with interpretations of nature and landscape. The Water Piano uses water flicked onto highly amplified bronze rods tuned to a pentatonic scale. The speed and intensity is affected by the movement of the audience and the sound is a poetic audio metaphor for the flowing water of a mountain stream. This particular project links to an extended period of research in to electro-acoustics begun in the early 1980s. After a period working on oil rigs in the North Sea he began to create objects which responded to the elements producing sound from wind rain and sun. This environment orchestra was explored while undertaking fellowships at both Exeter College of Art (1986) and then Sheffield City Polytechnic (1987). Subsequently this enquiry into electro-acoustics, and how they could interact with people and environments, has resulted in invented instruments, commissioned exhibitions, sited objects and performance - shifting between worlds of experimental Jazz, installation and sound sculpture. Song of the Morris Minor illustrated here was an example of Appleton’s appropriation of cars as components of sound sculptures. Here the vehicle acts as a soundbox within the Vleeshal Middleburg Holland. A 20 metre spring steel strip is stretched over the roof and is electromagnetically vibrated. This is powred by a solar panel mounted outside the Hall and the oscillator frequency is modulated by light levels outside the building. Solar Device For Deep field noises commissioned by Worl Expo 88 similarly used an electromagnetic light sensitive and light powered system to produce sound through the acoustic resonators. The sound is further modulated by viewres casting shadows on light sensors set in the centre of the resonators.
Solar Soundbox Series
In the early 1990s he began to explore digital sound and developed a system capable of being directly powered by sunlight – this made it possible to create sound works in remote outdoor locations creating ambient and augmented site specific sound pieces. This was a departure from the direct analog systems of previous pieces where the form often followed the function of the sound generating system. Notable versions of this sound box series were commissioned for Garden Festival Wales (1992), Princess Diana Memorial Garden (2000) and as an Interpretation System for the Earth Centre Doncaster.(2002). In 2009 he installed “ Whispers in Kanji Wood “. This piece represented a significant improvement in sound fidelity using Mp3 samples.. These pods are hung from the trees and triggered by the movement of people beneath them. They are powered by large flexible solar panels secured to a south facing tree on the edge of the wood. The content drew on the history and dynamic of the Forest of Afan in South Wales as well as the local Kanji Wood where they are situated. Thunder, rain. wind in leaves, voices and distant industrial sounds create and ambient reflection on the histories and life of that beautiful post industrial landscape. read full statement
1994 - State of Sea, Tate Gallery, St Ives
1987 - Music from Sculpture, Arnolfini, Bristol
1987 - Song of Morris Minor, De Vlesshal, Middlesburg, Holland
1985 - Sound Sculptures, Mappin Gallery, Sheffield
1983 - Sound Sculptures, Plymouth Arts Centre
1999 - Ama Zone Ian Indi -Ivancao conference-Sao Paulo
1998 - Pocahontas Has Misgivings about living in a Digital matrix, ISEA, Manchester
1998 - Recurring Technicolor Dream event , I.C.A. London
1996 - Seven Eighths of a Second, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
1995 - Sound Boxes Solar Powered, Glastonbury Festival
1993 - Ha Ha, Killerton Estate, Devon
1989 - God Songs with Brian Eno, Tenkawa, Japan
1989 - Sounds Unusual, South Bank, London
1989 - Time and Motion, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle
1987 - Summerscape Electric Weekend, Purcell Rooms, Queen Elizabeth Hall
1985 - A Noise in Your Eye, Arnolfini, Bristol
1985 - East of Yarmouth, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival